Why the Edmond Armory Matters
By Amy Stephens
We’ve never seen a ghost in the Edmond Historical Society & Museum–but we haven’t ruled it out. The 1936 National Guard armory that houses the museum is ripe for a good ghost story.
If These Walls Could Talk
In the quiet moments when I’m by myself at the armory, I’m deeply aware of how much history has taken place in these stone walls. Sometimes I imagine the sounds of military drills, a general barking orders, or shots resounding from the basement firing range.
As I write this, I’m sitting in my office, where the commanding officer worked. He undoubtedly made tough, life-altering decisions regarding troops; a level of gravity that my job does not entail. I affect people’s love and understanding of history, but many of the National Guard men who walked these halls before me never returned from war.
When I walk into the gallery, I think about how many boots have marched across this same floor. I imagine rows and rows of men standing at attention, facing the north stage and receiving orders. In the garage, I think about the number of military vehicles serviced before long journeys. When I’m working in the Collection Office, I don’t think about how the room used to be the locker room.
Why The Armory Exists
The armory was built 83 years ago when America was feeling insecure. The Works Progress Administration was President Roosevelt’s answer to keeping laborers working during the Great Depression. The military designed several armory floorplans—and set men to building them all over the country, with 52 in Oklahoma. At least four still-existing armories are nearly identical to Edmond’s armory: Chandler, Sulphur, Haskell, Duncan. Except for some decorative variances to the façade. Edmond’s armory has some special touches, such as the three circular stone medallions that flank each door post. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.
Why Old Places Matter
Like others around the world, my heart broke as the Notre Dame spire toppled in flames on April 15, 2019. Even if I hadn’t seen Notre Dame in person once, I would have felt its loss. As author of Why Old Places Matter, Thompson Mayes, wrote, “Sadly, people often aren’t aware of how much they care about the old places around them until they are threatened or lost…these old places inspire us and connect us.”
I believe that the Edmond armory is one of these places that matters.
Based on the number of retirees who still come to the Edmond Historical Society and share their memories of military service in the armory—I know that this place is in the memory banks of many of our citizens. The role of the armory has changed in the community, so now these red sandstone walls hold new meanings:
- Parents and children know the armory as a place to visit for a fun, free playdate.
- Students attend programs and complete history assignments in the museum.
- Senior adults view exhibits to learn, re-live memories and share their own stories.
- Citizens donate artifacts of historical importance to Edmond.
- Researchers discover their ancestors by using the Research Library and Genealogical Center.
The building is a familiar landmark along a busy street. If the Edmond armory was destroyed by some natural disaster or accident, would you feel the loss? Is it an old place that matters in your life?
For me, the answer is yes. And I suspect that some unseen ghost, dressed in a military uniform, might feel the same way.